Is Tesla’s threat to North Carolina car dealerships fundamentally different from what Wal-Mart has been doing to locally owned independent stores for decades? Isn’t Amazon just continuing a process that Barnes & Noble and Borders started? Globalization has hit the middle class as hard as anything dreamed up on Sand Hill Road in Palo Alto.
What seems to bring Silicon Valley up for special animus are the outsize self-aggrandizing claims made by the Mark Zuckerbergs and Sergey Brins and Elon Musks of the world, when compared to the reality of their corporate impact. Wal-Mart just promises low prices, while Silicon Valley promises to make the world a better place. And yet the world, despite our overwhelming embrace of computers and networks and email and social media, is demonstrably not a better place. In the United States, in the 20 years since the Internet broke through, inequality has widened, our politics have grown ever more dysfunctional, and our most pressing problems have grown more intractable. Facebook Home and Google Glass and Amazon Prime aren’t cutting it. Homelessness in Silicon Valley? There isn’t an app for that.